The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 4

Allen, Thomas


St. John's Church.


The church of St. John the Evangelist, which stands near the end of , is of the new churches built soon after the time of sir Christopher Wren, and is the work of Mr. Archer, who has certainly shown no little skill or power of invention on this occasion.

This church owes its origin to the increased population of the parish of St. Margaret. It was begun in the year , and was consecrated on the . The act of parliament, passed for this purpose, states, the inhabitants, having previously marked certain boundaries, applied by petition to have this erected into a distinct parish. The act accordingly not only granted this, but likewise towards providing and settling a maintenance for the rector and his successors, granted the sum of to be laid out in the purchase of lands, tenements, &c. in fee simple, for their use.

Over and above the profits that should arise from that purchase, it was enacted that the sum of as a farther provision for the rector and his successors; should be annually raised by an equal rate upon the inhabitants, to be assessed by the rector, churchwardens, and vestry, on every Easter Tuesday, or days afterwards; and in case the rector, &c. should refuse or neglect to make such assessment within the time appointed, he or they, so refusing or neglecting, to forfeit to the king the sum of for every such offence. The assessment, when made, was ordered to be confirmed by justices of the peace in the city or liberty of ; and the collectors to be chosen by the vestry; who, upon their refusing to act, are to forfeit to the king also the sum of .



It was also enacted that, as by the division of , the curate thereof and the chaplain of Tothill-fields chapel would become great sufferers, the rector of this parish, and his successors, are for ever to pay to the curate, otherwise so suffering, the sum of per annum, by quarterly payments, without any deduction; and also to pay to the chaplain of Tothill-fields chapel annually the sum of .

To this, as well as to all the other new churches, the presentation was in the king; and, in this instance, the advowson to belong for ever afterwards to the dean and chapter of .

To prevent this rectory from being held , all licenses and dispensations for holding the came are, by the same act of parliament, declared null and void.

While this church was building, the foundations gave way; and it sunk so much as to occasion a material alteration in the plan originally laid down for its construction; which may, perhaps, account for its present curious appearance.

This magnificent building differs from the general arrangement of ecclesiastical edifices. The plan is an oblong square, the narrowest ends of which are contracted by means of sweeps in the walls, forming quadrants of circles, and having porticoes flanked with square towers attached to--the other sides. The north and south sides of the edifice contain the entrances, being, contrary to usual practice, the principal fronts of the building; they are uniform with each other, and the description of will therefore suffice for both. The elevation commences, with a lofty double flight of steps leading to a winged portico of the Doric order, composed of divisions, the central ones being recessed, and comprising columns; the side divisions are marked by antae; in every division is an arched doorway, with a window of the same form above it; the whole is crowned with the entablature of the order, surmounted by a pediment broken above the centre of the front to let in an arch, flanked by pilasters of the Ionic order, and covered with a pediment, behind which the church also finished with a pediment; above the side divisions, the towers commence with square stylobates, which taking their rise from the raking cornice of the broken pediment forcibly add to the character of instability, for which the towers of this church are remarkable.

Above the stylobate the towers take a circular form, and are encircled by insulated columns rising from the angles of the square portion of the design; in the north and south elevations are arched windows with circular ones above them; in the other intercolumniations are parallelogrammatic openings flanked by pilasters, the whole is crowned with an entablature; the columns are of the Corinthian order, and the entablature over them is whimsically enough made to assume the circular form; by means


of the latter the columns are united to the cella; the roof of each tower is covered with lead forming a bell shaped cupola; owing to the defective construction of the building, the whole is greatly out of order; the perpendicular is lost in some instances, and the columns defaced by being bound to each other, and to the walls of the building by bars of iron. The east and west fronts are uniform; the elevation commences with a stylobate in which are windows and entrances to the vaults; the superstructure is made into divisions by pilasters, and finished by the entablature, which is continued round the entire building; in the central division is a large arched window, and in the side ones smaller windows recently walled up in the east front. An attic is raised above the entablature of the order supported by trusses; in the centre is a niche between grouped antae, covered with a pediment; in each flank is a circular headed window of recent construction; the west end has no windows in the flanks, and those in the side divisions are still open; the sweeping walls which connect the fronts commence with a stylobate, and are finished with the continued entablature; in each are arched windows as before The church is now covered with an unsightly roof, which was substituted after the fire, for more appropriate to this splendid building, which before that unfortunate accident was perhaps the most magnificent church in the metropolis after the cathedral; the roof is now covered with slates.

The interior is approached by small porches within the principal porticoes; in its present state, it shews a large and handsome area unbroken by pillars or arches. The order is Corinthian, which is carried round the side walls in pilaster, surmounted by a rich entablature; the grand groups of columns, which formerly occupied the angles of the building, in the style of St. Mary, Woolnoth, were destroyed by the fire; the small windows in the lateral divisions of the east and west fronts being designed to throw a light behind the columns and prevent the gloom which their great size might otherwise create. The ceiling is horizontal, pannelled into square compartments by flying cornices, the soffits enriched with guillochi; in the midst of the ceiling is a large circular panel with a magnificent boss in the centre; the soffites of the pannels are painted a cerulean blue; the ornamental portions stone color an oak gallery, sustained on insignificant Ionic columns, occupies the west end and the north and south sides; this gallery is not coeval with the church; in the western portion is the organ.

The chancel is a large recess, which has been only completed at the late repair, having been in an imperfect state ever since the fire; it now makes a splendid appearance, owing to the judicious ornaments which were at that time added to it. The east window is enclosed in an enriched architrave, copied from the architecture of the temple of Jupiter Stator, with the addition of a sweeping


range of minute cherubic heads round the arch in imitation of statuary marble, and which were copied from a monument in ; the new windows in the flanks have also architraves enriched with roses; the altar screen is composed of divisions: the central is occupied by a painting of after ; this is situated between Ionic columns, the shafts imitating Sienna marble; the other divisions are made by pilasters, and contain the usual inscriptions on pannels, in imitation of various marbles; above the central division was formerly a pediment interfering with the window; this has been altered to a light pedimental cornice enriched with honeysuckles. The arched ceiling has a gilt glory in the centre; the pilasters at the entrance of the chancel are painted to imitate Sienna marble, and the capitals, modillions, and other enrichments are gilt.

The pulpit and desks are situated in group in front of the altar rails. In the new pewing of the church at the last repair, free seats were constructed, but with a contemptible spirit of aristocratic pride, a line of bronze ornamental honeysuckles was constructed to distinguish the humble occupants of the new free seats from the more favourite tenants of the pews--a distinction inimical to the spirit of the Church of England--utterly at variance with Christian benevolence, and disgraceful to any building for religions purposes, in which the

rich and the poor meet together,

or ought to do so.

The font is situated in the north west angle of the church; it is a neat basin of veined marble on an octagonal pillar. In the central window of the chancel is a repetition of the subject of the altar-piece in stained glass between paintings of St. John and St. Paul, the remainder of the window being filled up with ornamental work;--this painted glass was presented to the church in , by T. Green, esq. of .

The monuments are few, and none are of consequence.

In the vestry, which is a spacious apartment, is a painting of the ruins of the church after the interior was destroyed by fire in . It was presented to the parish by G. Cross, esq. In , above mentioned, the interior of this edifice was much injured by fire, by which the whole fittings up were destroyed; very considerable repairs and alterations, and, to the credit of the parish, at the same time, improvements took place in , under the superintendance of W. Innwood, esq. architect; the repairs were completed, and the church re-opened on the in that year.

In , at the corner of , stands a house, which tradition has assigned as once the residence of the notorious colonel Blood. The house is distingnished by a shield; the arms obliterated by time. It still exists in the brick-work over the story. The house overlooked , which was once,


what that name implies, a place where the residents of the adjoining cloisters used to exercise; and it had also a view over the gardens upon which , Great and , Cowley, and , and, indeed, all the ground upon which the church of St. John the Evangelist, and the various streets in its vicinity have been erected.

In Horseferry-road is the Gasometer and works belonging to the


[] 1 Geo. II. sess. 2. cap. 15.

[] Vide vol. iii. page 689.

[] Gent. Mag. xc. part 1, p. 19.

[] Vide ante, vol. ii. p. 531.

[] European Mag. Aug. 1803.

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 Title Page
CHAPTER I: Site, local divisions, and government of the City of Westminster; history of the Abbey; Coronation Ceremonies; and lists of the Abbots and Deans
CHAPTER II: Westminster Abbey, and Description of the Tombs and Monuments
CHAPTER III: History and Topography of St. Margaret's Parish
CHAPTER IV: History and Topography of St. John's Parish, Westminster
CHAPTER V: History and Topography of the parish of St. Martin's in the Fields, Westminster
CHAPTER VI: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. James, Westminster
CHAPTER VII: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Anne, Westminster
CHAPTER VIII: History and Topography of the parish of St. Paul, Covent Garden
CHAPTER IX: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Mary-le-strand
CHAPTER X: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. Clement Danes
CHAPTER XI: History and Topography of the parish of st. George, Hanover Square
CHAPTER XII: History and Topography of the Precinct of the Savoy
CHAPTER XIII: History and Topography of the Inns of Court
CHAPTER XIV: History and Topography of the Precincts of the Charter-house and Ely Place, and the Liberty of the Rolls
 CHAPTER XV: Historical Notices of the Borough of Southwark
CHAPTER XVI: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Olave, Southwark
CHAPTER XVII: History and Topography of the parish of St. John, Southwark
CHAPTER XVIII: History and Topography of the parish of St. Thomas, Southwark
CHAPTER XIX: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. George's, Southwark
CHAPTER XX: History and Topography of St. Saviour's Parish
CHAPTER XXI: History and Topography of the parist of Christ-church in the County of Surrey
 CHAPTER XXII: A List of the Principal Books, &c that have been published in Illustration of the Antiquities, History, Topography, and other subjects treated of in this Work
 Addenda et Corrigienda